Squatters find shelter at recovery center’s future site | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Squatters find shelter at recovery center’s future site

Susan Wood
Evidence of squatters' presence is seen at the future site of Sierra Recovery Center, which is being remodeled. / Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune

While planning a move in November, Sierra Recovery Center has attracted more than a costly construction budget and those seeking substance abuse assistance.

The South Lake Tahoe nonprofit organization has experienced a number of squatters at its future headquarters, the former Sandor Chateau Motel. People have been spotted setting up camp and evidence remains in the back units – including that of fires inside.

“People were using the bathroom, and there’s no water. It got bad,” Executive Director Betsy Fedor said Wednesday.

This is a common practice for those who are down and out and need shelter, said police Chief Terry Daniels, who serves on the Recovery Center board.

The concern is a fire will get out of control like the one that burned much of the since-demolished Carousel Inn.

In the police department’s periodic sweeps of homeless camps, the old motel site on Emerald Bay Road has made the list. It’s a notoriety Fedor would rather not have, especially as she’s trying to conduct an extensive remodeling job estimated to cost the nonprofit $1 million. Its operating budget alone is a little more than that.

“I wouldn’t do this again,” she said.

Like the people it serves, Sierra Recovery Center has undergone its share of challenges over the last few years – buying the building, struggling with permit uses and dealing with construction rates. These have run about $200,000 over budget with just the first phase, which covers the office space and outpatient programs in the front section of the building. The organization, which also runs three transitional houses, will have to borrow more money to finish off the first phase.

And now it’s having to place deadbolts on its back doors, thereby scaring out the underserved in the community. Ironically, the second phase of the project involving the back section of the motel would eventually house those who want to advance their lives in a sober lifestyle.

“That’s why we started the transitional housing,” she said. “One of our basic needs is shelter.”

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